There are many koans,
many themes within koans, and many koans about certain
One fundamental thread
emerging from within the subtractive abstraction of
koans is that of "experiencing the moment".
Koans are attractive on
several levels. They are great fun to read and they
effortlessly steal our attention, delivering it to where
we (as egos) are not. With discipline, effort and
scrutiny on our part, they may crack open the door to
perception. With luck, we might just slip through. Of
course, then we’d have to leave luck behind.
These three examples take
slightly different perspectives on how to abandon
oneself to the moment. While they are based loosely on
traditional koan, I have taken the liberty to smooth and
polish them into a narrative suited to the modern
reader, recognizing the unique influences of our
Be mindful when visiting
koans that on closer reflection, you will find paths of
awareness and understanding which are not at first
apparent. Though distilled into a few paragraphs, koans
represent the "essence" of human experience, and our
relationship to the past, the future, and the current
moment where we struggle with illusion and distraction.
Look carefully within
each of these narratives, take measure of the
influences. Experience how they are resolved.
Tiger and the Cliff
A man traveling across a
field encountered a tiger. He fled. The tiger, sensing
prey, chased after him quickly gaining ground.
Coming to a precipice,
the man scurried over the edge in a last effort to save
Safely beneath the
tiger's groping claws, the man caught hold of some
exposed roots. While the tiger studied from above, the
man looked below to see vultures picking the remains of
yet another who had fallen from the same spot. Could the
vultures and tiger have been confederates?
His only safety was the
vine, that is until two mice appeared from within the
cliff. Ignoring the man’s calls of "shoo", the mice, one
white, one black began to nibble at his fingers, testing
as to whether it satisfied their tastes. Might he have
In the midst of his
torment and anxiety, the man spied a beautiful rose just
inches from his station.
He removed one of his
bleeding hands from its grip on the vine, and delicately
reached for the rose, bending its stem to where he could
inhale its essence.
Bear and Tiger
Journeying through the
wilderness, a traveler encountered a vicious bear (or
elephant or whatever, you decide for both of us).
To save his skin, he turned about and ran for dear life.
Poor fellow. Bears
can be fast. As the beast edged ever closer, the
traveler had no option but to dive over the adjoining
precipice. Luckily, he contacted a cluster of exposed
Feeling safe for the
moment, the man looked to see how far the drop was. He
smiled, seeing he might be able to descend safely down.
The smile evaporated soon enough when a lion emerged
from neighboring bushes, closely studying the traveler’s
predicament and positioning itself strategically below.
Our traveler was caught
in the between. So long as he held firm, he could buy
time to conjure a solution.
Two mice emerged from
nowhere, one white, the other black. Put off by the
man's calls for them to "shoo", the mice began to nibble
on his fingers. Perhaps the man had been eating cheese
while walking along. Perhaps the mice didn t like his
As his terror erupted,
from the side of his gaze, the man noticed a cluster of
Surprised, his fears
lifted for a moment. He reached for the one nearest.
Then another, and yet another.
How special they were!
It was a terrible arctic
storm.The vessel lost power and listed helplessly.The
captain signaled for help, but nearest help was hours
away. In short order, a massive wave settled its
The man had held close to
the vessel s debris for hours until he saw the huge hulk
drop from site behind him. None of the others could be
seen or heard.
His protective suit had
sustained him for a time, but now his limbs were numb,
and without sensation.
The sea eventually
stilled, and the surface calmed. He looked rearward
where the boat had been for signs of life or movement.
Nothing that he could
see, but then movement. A ripple on the surface of
the water, tunneling toward him.
Unable to bear his
alarm, he turned to face away. In the east, the sun
peeked over the horizon.
"My what a beautiful
between past, present, and future.
emotion, distraction. Being stuck.
All that is left
is the experience, and the moment, and the
expansion of that into consciousness.
The mice, the
ocean, the unknown threats. They come with the
turf, and are just as natural as the rose, the
blackberry and the sunrise.
They are the
wonder and mystery of the moment.